What Happened to the Telephone?

I do not think that Alexander Graham Bell could ever have imagined what would become of his invention. What started out as a voice communication between two humans has developed into something quite different: One might even say it has merged in some ungodly way with computers and the internet.

Corporations want to talk to you, to find out what you are thinking, whether of their products or services, or your politics. But they don’t want you to communicate with them—unless to tell them you want to order now. That’s why we all have to go through a diabolically designed automated attendant service which has a computer asking you why you are calling. I find that they frequently omit the option that describes why I am calling them. Sometimes, there is no way to get through to a human.

Most of my incoming calls are tagged as SPAM RISK. That’s because there are firms and charities that want to romance you out of your money. One charity calls me every day: I even recognize the caller’s voice. And this for a “charity” that is not even tax-deductible. I have told him multiple times that I am on a fixed income and no longer contribute to charities. (That’s not exactly entirely true, but it is 100% true for people who try to collect money by making unsolicited phone calls.)

This morning, I received one UNCLASSIFIED call that wanted to ask about my political opinions. I politely informed the caller that I do not discuss politics with strangers because I am suspicious of their motives. That is particularly so as election time approaches. This is a dance I will perform numerous times come midterm elections in November.

It is sad that people have to protect themselves from the telephone. We try to insulate ourselves from callers by using voice mail or by communicating only by texting.

Going to the Mattresses

Is There Any Escape?

We have reached that part of the election when all the millions of dollars spent by candidates and Political Action Committees (PACs) lead to a barrage of ads on television and over the telephone. During the last four weeks of a hard-fought political campaign (and they’re all that way now), I screen all my telephone calls.

Irrespective of the candidate or issue, I don’t want to talk to anyone on the phone about politics; and I most certainly don’t want to participate in opinion polls. I already avoid television—unless I am watching a movie without advertising or a DVD—so I am not susceptible to that particular attempt to poison my thought processes.

As I was coming to work today, I heard a news story on the radio about how the second presidential debate will be in a town hall format, with the participants all being uncommitted voters. Who in this superheated political arena is uncommitted any more? Doesn’t one have to be stupid or disingenuous at this point to be truly labeled uncommitted? I am as committed as hell, and I don’t want to talk to anyone about it.

In about a month, all this will be over and done with. We will have a president with whom we will be dissatisfied, to a greater or lesser degree; and the media blitz will have died down to nothing.

All those Citizens United dollars will have wreaked their damage on the American voter, who will be increasingly contemptuous of our political system. Sometimes I think the only people who like our system are those directly involved in manipulating public opinion.

In the middle of a hurricane, the only safe place to be is in out of the wind.

Picture Credit: The above cartoon is taken from the Fremd High School American Studies Ning (?!), which also addresses the same point I am trying to make.